Social media for law firms had been largely ignored by lawyers until early 2012 when the Law Society issued social media guidance for lawyers, this practice note (last updated June 2015) covers advice on good practice when using social media to promote business and the benefits and risks of using social media. For any lawyer or law firm looking to use social media as part of their business this is the idea first read.
SRA Principles for social media
Principle 2 – You must act with integrity
Principle 3 – You must not allow your independence to be compromised
Principle 6 – You must behave in a way that maintains the trust the public places in you and in the provision of legal services
Client relationships with social platforms
If you first form a relationship with a client through social media there is no reason for you and your client to cease interacting via social media. However, if you continue to have an online relationship with an existing client or form an online relationship with a client, you should consider whether you might breach any of the principles or requirements in the SRA Code.
If you do not have a relationship with clients via social media, you should take account of the fact that your presence on social media channels like LinkedIn and Twitter sites may inadvertently impact on your professional obligations towards your clients.
When thinking about whether to post comments and opinions of this nature you should take into account that, even if you do not contravene the requirements in the SRA Code in terms of confidentiality, conflict of interests and publicity, you could breach Principle 2 on acting with integrity. Personal integrity is central to your role as a practitioner and must characterise all of your professional dealings.
Even when you are using social media channels for personal use, you should consider whether you will be associated with activities which may be visible online and which, in the future, could be viewed by other professionals or clients.
How has social media for law firms evolved?
Back in June 2008, LinkedIn had just 200,000 members across the world who marked their business as ‘legal practice’ – though this could be in any position – a mere 12,000 of whom were here in the UK. By Late 2009 LinkedIn reported that 95,000 UK members displayed their business as ‘law practice’, ‘legal services’, or ‘alternative dispute resolution’. During this time LinkedIn reported that its membership was growing by one million new members every 17 days, and that, in global terms, site members in ‘law practice’ rank in the top five industries on LinkedIn.
Nearly half of firms surveyed by Byfield Consultancy, a PR firm, said they now regard LinkedIn as ‘very important’, with one in three also rating Twitter as a profile-raising tool.
‘Partners now know they can tweet and the world doesn’t collapse around them,’ writes David Sayce, head of digital at international firm Ince & Co.
But for those still struggling, the report provides a handy definition from Wikipedia (‘the online encyclopaedia’) describing social media as being ‘formed mainly by the public as a group, in a social way’ utilising ‘web-based technologies’.
2016 Maturity of Law Firms on Social Media
307,837 UK member for “law practice” OR “legal services” OR “alternative dispute resolution” now visible on LinkedIn
Social media is a business acquisition tool
The connection between your firm’s social media strategy and business development strategy is critical, efficient use of social media increases lead generation and profitability for law firms, with a lead to conversion rate of around 10%.
law firms have a lot to gain from social media channels more so than other businesses, law firms are innately social organisations. Law firms rely on social interactions—with clients and among professional colleagues—to be successful at their work and develop new business. These long-term relationships are built on traits such as intellectual leadership, integrity, and confidentiality, traits that can easily be expressed via social media.
Lawyers are trying to sell what is in their mind, social media is a tool allowing them write and talk about what they know about. This makes their service and value to clients more tangible, helping to turn contacts into connections.
Social media listening is really valuable and becoming very common for competitive intelligence and monitoring different topics and practice areas.
client intelligence – clients are using social media listening to evaluate your firm and stay informed about narrow legal practices. Law firms can also use broad social media listening to their advantage, staying informed about client’s business and quickly locating public opinion impacting a client’s case or industry. One tactic is to build a dashboard for each client or industry topic you need to monitor.
Social listening being used as a research solution is only one example of the wider value of social media beyond marketing functions. Law firms have also had success using social media for recruiting top talent and improving collaboration in global firms.
Tips for Law Firms on Social Media
- Keep it simple and remove legal jargon. Most readers are business people and they need to be able to understand the information you are providing as quickly and easily as possible.
- Make it easy for your clients, prospective clients and influencers to share content by including social share buttons.
- Develop visual content instead of a text-heavy blog post, create a visual representation of legal processes through infographics, images or video
- Social media messages need to be specifically targeted to relevant audiences. Email blasts and simply posting ‘latest news’ content offers little business value, but powerful content with proper context is effective.
- Be smart with content, Break larger pieces of content into smaller pieces. There is a use for longer format but it should not be focus on social media.
- It is vital to include a strong call to action with each piece of content to focus the attention of the reader.
- Use topics (keywords) people are searching for, understand what your audience wants.